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Mentors & Co-Mentors

Good mentoring is at the core of ensuring a successful undergraduate research experience. In addition, at Caltech, our faculty widely believe that involving undergraduates in their research is the only way to help students understand what is happening at the cutting-edge of their respective fields. However, we also recognize that mentoring undergraduates takes time, energy, resources, and above all, commitment. The resources on this page are designed to support your work!

Mentors, Co-Mentors, and Associate Mentors

Mentors: All Caltech faculty including research, teaching, and visiting faculty, the professional staff, faculty associates, and members of the JPL technical staff may serve as mentors. Caltech students may also arrange a project with a faculty member at another college or university or other research institution. The mentor maintains the overall research, safety, and financial responsibility for summer students. This includes preparing for the student’s arrival; providing adequate supervision, support, and safety training; and collaborating with students on meeting all program requirements.

Co-Mentors: Mentors often assign another member of the research group to provide day-to-day supervision of a summer student. Co-mentors may be senior graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, technical staff, or other colleagues. While the role of the co-mentor will vary from group to group, they often provide the day-to-day oversight of summer students and their progress. This includes providing support, advice, and guidance; including students in all aspects of the research group; helping to initiate interaction with faculty; encouraging students to take intellectual responsibility for their project.

Associate Mentors: Students doing a SURF at institutions other than Caltech/JPL are required to have a Caltech faculty member (in an aligned research area) serve as an associate mentor. The primary role of the associate mentor is to ensure that the academic rigor of the student’s proposed project is compatible with Caltech standards. This might include discussing the proposed project and reviewing the research proposal in advance of the student applying and meeting with the student upon their return to campus in order to support their on-going research efforts. The associate mentor does not have any financial responsibility for the student award or research costs.